I used to tell everyone I was Samoan. For years my partner thought I was Samoan. I didn’t want to be Māori when I was growing up. If you were Māori, you were always last in line.
It was only when I went to live in Australia that I realised I was Māori. My sister got sick and I went to look after her, and over there, no-one called me a Māori. No-one was saying “you Māoris”, anymore. They just called me a kiwi. It wasn’t a negative thing to be Māori.
Well, guess what? I was in my fifties. When I came back to New Zealand I decided what I was going to do. I said to my partner “Dear, I have given you three white children and I have lived in your white world for the last thirty-something odd years, and now I am going out to find out who I am.”
The first thing I did was take up Māori classes. I got my tohu, but in the second year I joined rāranga instead. I love weaving. I pick up more Māori doing rāranga than in a classroom. I do understand Māori, but I can’t talk it. Anyway, now my house is covered in muka (flax). Muka everywhere! It’s a pigsty. In the old days, I used to vacuum twice a week but now I don’t bother. I get up and look around at the mess and think, nah, I’m just gonna go out instead.